White Star Market among coronavirus casualties as closure becomes permanent

White Star Market.

White Star Market, the Mid City food hall shuttered due to coronavirus mitigation measures, has notified its landlord it will not reopen—even after the government lifts the stay-at-home order. 

Architect Josh Hoffpauir—who designed and co-owns Square 46, the mixed-use development on Government Street anchored by White Star Market—confirms he received a letter March 27 from White Star’s owner, Clark Gaines, stating that because of the pandemic the food hall is permanently closed.

In a statement to Daily Report, Gaines says, “based on the COVID-19 pandemic and the proclamations that have been issued, we could no longer operate our food hall at Square 46, nor could our vendors sustain themselves.”

Gaines goes on to say that he asked his landlords for rent abatement and the request was denied.

“Based on Louisiana law and the fact that I cannot operate a restaurant in the leased premises, we had no choice but to terminate the lease,” he says. “All of us are suffering through this catastrophic pandemic, especially those in the restaurant industry like White Star and its hard-working, loyal food vendors.”

Hoffpauir acknowledges Gaines requested a six-month rate abatement and that he and his partners denied the full six months. But he says they told Gaines they were willing to work with him on rent, taking it one month at a time. 

“We sent him an email saying, ‘… we are willing to work with you on rent. We knew this was going to cause issues … we believe we should look at this on a month-to-month basis but cannot agree to six months right now.'” 

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ March 16 executive order requiring all bars, restaurant dining rooms and health clubs to shut down had already delivered a blow to several White Star eateries. Some, like Dat’s Italian, had decided to shut down permanently, according to its website.

Gov’t Taco also had decided against offering takeout or delivery service. Gov’t Taco is planning to relocate from White Star this summer anyway, once its new brick-and-mortar location on Government and Cloud streets is completed.

ThaiHey, which just opened in White Star in January, had attempted to do takeout and delivery service from the food hall for the first few days after the executive order, but then moved to a site in Spanish Town, from which it’s now operating.

The permanent closure of White Star Market comes almost two years after what had been the highly anticipated opening of the food hall in May 2018. In the months since, it has been often cited as an example of a Mid City renaissance and an example of Government Street’s resurgence.

But it has seen a lot of turnover among its restaurant tenants, some only lasting a matter of weeks, which Gaines has said is not unusual for food halls.

The closure also comes as Hoffpauir and his partners are trying to sell the 25,000-square-foot Square 46, which they listed for sale in December for $5 million.

In addition to the soon-to-be-vacant food hall space, some 3,000 square feet of retail space is available, including 1,100 square feet that never got leased, as well as 6,700 square feet of office space.

All but one of the eight multifamily units, which were initially marketed as condos for sale but recently converted to apartments, are leased, Hoffpauir says. 

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